Originally Published: The Frisky
Karen Fratti, Columnist
So much for softball. In a historic move for women’s sports, two women were signed to a minor league baseball team in California. The Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs signed Kelsie Whitmore, a 17-year-old pitcher and outfielder, and Stacy Piagno a 25-year-old pitcher and infielder, who will be added to the roster starting in July. There is a difference between softball and hardball, and both of these women have always been involved with the latter — Whitmore graduated from the California Baseball Academy and Piagno has a gold medal from playing with the U.S. women’s national baseball team at the 2015 Pan American Games. This is a really big deal for anyone who’s ever wanted to play with the boys.
And it’s all because of Francis Ford Coppola. His Sonoma-based winery sponsors the Stompers and he used his leverage to help recruit women as well as men for the independent baseball team. He said in a press release, “When watching Major League Baseball, I always wondered why there couldn’t be a co-ed team. It’s the one major sport in which weight and strength come less into play.” Coppola added, “When my Sonoma winery became involved with the Stompers, I had the opportunity to turn this thought into a reality and recruit these amazing women capable of playing alongside men.”
The only other woman who plays baseball on the pro-level is a French woman named Melissa Mayeux, who was added to the MLB international registration list, which means she can be recruited and signed by the professional baseball league. Last year, Mayeux told SB Nation that she prefers baseball to softball and just likes being on the field. “I have always liked and found it absolutely normal to play with and against boys,” she said. “On the field, I’m no longer Melissa Mayeux: I become a baseball player like anyone else. Baseball runs in my veins.”
Theo Fightmaster, the general manager for The Stompers, told MLB.com that putting Whitmore and Piagno on the roster for a big game tomorrow isn’t just a stunt. He wants them to play and see what they know. “Let’s give women a chance to be part of a team, let’s give women a chance to play against men,” he said. “What will they learn? What have they not been coached because they haven’t had the same coaching as boys?”
Fightmaster is kind of all about equal rights. Last year at the beginning of Pride, he started Sean Conroy, the first openly gay pro baseball player on the mound.
It’s good news that women (and gay men) have a place in America’s favorite past time. There’s no crying in baseball, but maybe Whitmore and Piagno will make a few men shed some tears.